Around 90km up Highway 1 from the Miriam Vale turn-off, GLADSTONE is a busy port, and also the site of the Boyne Island processing plant, which refines aluminium from ore mined at Weipa on the remote Cape York Peninsula. Glaringly hot, there's no reason to visit unless you're trying to reach Heron Island. If you've time to spare, the Tondoon Botanic Gardens, about 7km south of town, comprise a partly wild spread of wetlands, woodlands, forests and native shrubs, all expertly laid out – you'll probably clock up wallabies and birdlife here too.
The main strip is Goondoon Street, where there's a "mall" – just the usual high-street shops, post office and banks – plus a couple of hotels and motels. Gladstone Reef Motel, 38 Goondoon St (Tel:07/4972 1000; Price: $76-100), has ordinary motel rooms and good views from a rooftop pool. Places to eat include The Yacht Club, 1 Goondoon St, with reasonably priced bistro meals and outdoor dining overlooking the water, or the more fashionable Scotties, 46 Goondoon St, open for dinner only, with contemporary cuisine at gourmet prices.